Pieter Coecke van Aelst

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Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Self-Portrait

Pieter Coecke van Aelst (August 14, 1502 – December 6, 1550) was a Flemish painter, sculptor, architect and a designer of woodcuts, stained glass and tapestries. He worked in Antwerp and Brussels and was court painter to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.


Adoration of the Magi, Staatliche Antikensammlungen, 1540

He was the son of the Deputy Mayor of Aalst. According to the early biographer Karel van Mander he studied under Bernaert van Orley. There are no documents that prove this apprenticeship but there are strong stylistic similarities between the styles of the two artists.[1]

Van Aelst later studied in Italy before entering the Antwerp Guild of painters in 1527. In 1533, he travelled to Constantinople for one year in an attempt to persuade the Turkish sultan to give him tapestry commissions.[2] This mission was, however, not successful.[1]

Van Aelst established a studio in Brussels in 1544 or 1546, where he realized paintings and produced ontwerpen (small-scale drawings)[3] and full-scale cartoons for tapestries.[4] He was appointed court painter to Charles V a few months before his death. No signed and few reliably documented paintings by van Aelst have survived.[1]

His students include Gillis van Coninxloo, Willem Key, Hans Vredeman de Vries, Michiel Coxcie, and possibly Pieter Brueghel the Elder, who would eventually marry van Aelst's daughter, Mayken. His second wife, Mayken Verhulst, was an artist as well. According to Karel van Mander she was the first teacher of her grandchildren, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Van Aelst's studio was well known for its graphic works and publications. He made drawings for a series of woodcuts on the Customs and Fashions of the Turks. They were published posthumously in 1553 by Mayken Verhulst. He was also the publisher and designer of a volume of prints entitled De seer wonderlijke…Triumphelijke Incompst van … Prince Philips commemorating the 1549 Joyous entry into Antwerp of Prince Philip (later Philip II).[1]

Van Aelst was a gifted linguist and is noted for his translation of Vitruvius' De architectura into Flemish and of Sebastiano Serlio's architectural treatise, Architettura (1539) into High German, Flemish and French. The translations played a crucial role in spreading Renaissance ideas to the Low Countries and hastening the transition from the late Gothic style prevalent in the area at the time.[1]

Selected works[5][edit]

St. Jerome in his study, The Walters Art Museum
  • Christ and His Disciples on Their Way to Emmaus, Oil on panel, 68 x 87 cm, Private collection [1]
  • Descent from the Cross, c. 1535, Oil on panel, 119 x 170 cm, Amstelkring Museum, Amsterdam [2]
  • Holy Trinity, Oil on panel, 98 x 84 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid [3]
  • Crucifixion, tapestry, Pinacoteca Comunale, Forlì[4]
  • Triptych, 1530s, Oil on panel, 105 x 68 cm (central), 105 x 28 cm (each wing), Private collection [5]
  • Triptych: Adoration of the Magi, Oil on panel, 89 x 57 cm (central), 89 x 25 cm (each wing), Private collection [6]
  • Triptych: Descent from the Cross, 1540–1550, Oil on panel, 262 x 172 cm (central), 274 x 84 cm (each wing), Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon [7]
  • Triptych of Saint James the Lesser and Saint Philip, Museu de Arte Sacra do Funchal
  • The last Holy Communion, Kroměříž Archbishop's Palace picture gallery, Kroměříž [6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jane Campbell Hutchison. "Coecke van Aelst Pieter, I." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 8 Dec. 2014
  2. ^ A. Wunder. "Western Travelers, Eastern Antiquities, and the Image of the Turk in Early Modern Europe" Journal of Early Modern History, 7 (2003).
  3. ^ Edith A. Standen, "Some Sixteenth-Century Flemish Tapestries Related to Raphael's Workshop" Metropolitan Museum Journal (1971).
  4. ^ R. Bauer, ed. Tapisserien der Renaissance: Nach Entwürfen von Pieter Coecke van Aelst, exhibition catalogue, Schloss Halbturn, 1981; I. Buchanan. "Designers, Weavers and Entrepreneurs: Sixteenth-Century Flemish Tapestries in the Patrimonio Nacional" The Burlington Magazine, (1992).
  5. ^ Web Gallery of Art: Pieter van Aelst
  6. ^ Picture gallery Kroměříž, Catalogue of the collection of Archbishops' Castle in Kroměříž paintings, 1998, Editor: Milan Togner, 520 pages, ISBN 80-238-2362-0 (Czech)

External links[edit]

Pieter Coecke on line [8]